A decision took two-and-a-half years, but Royal Sydney Golf Club finally chose to implement its Championship course redevelopment plans under the astute eyes of Gil Hanse.
The American course architect presented his proposed redesign to the club in March 2017, with the club first asking for some changes before members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the revised project this September at an Extraordinary General Meeting. The next step in the process will be the club’s submission of a Development Application to Woollahra Municipal Council, with the work scheduled to take place in a 12-month period from April 2021.
Hanse’s design résumé includes courses across the globe, from Pinehurst No.4, Merion and The Country Club in his native USA, to Castle Stuart in Scotland and the 2016 Olympic Games course in Brazil. Hanse’s design will be complemented by a landscape restoration overseen by Australian landscape architect, Harley Kruse. The renovated course will include a number of key design features to deliver a contemporary design innovatively crafted for the Royal Sydney topography, as well as restoring a native heathland landscape.
Club president Chris Chapman remarked on the historical importance of golf at the epicentre of the club and the broader influence the club and its golf courses have had on golf here.
“Throughout its 126-year history, the Royal Sydney Golf Club has made an extraordinary contribution to the evolution and development of the game, to golf architecture, to grass and green technology and to tournament life,” he said. “The Championship course redevelopment will ensure that these influences prevail long into the future.”
Chapman also noted that while very significant work on the course was a necessary step, the plan also presented the club with several previously unimagined opportunities.
“Our Championship course has not undergone such a comprehensive renovation for 100 years,” he said. “The course and its in-ground and on-ground infrastructure are showing their age and would have had to be resolved at some point in the near future. In addressing these issues through the vision of one of the world’s best golf-course architects, the club will create an important sanctuary of native flora and fauna in Sydney’s eastern suburbs – an incredible opportunity.
“This re-imagined Championship course will stand among the finest heath courses and be contemporary, playable and sustainable.”
In addition to a new ‘two loops of nine’ routing, the club’s women’s captain, Jane Buckley, said that the new design will create a more multi-faceted course for all levels of golfer.
“A ‘ribbon’ design on our tee areas will create greater variation among the four sets of tees – the front-most tees provide simpler shots onto the fairway, while those further back face increased challenges,” Buckley said.
“The new approach to bunker design and placement emphasises strategy rather than penalty. Similarly, with 64 percent more fairway space and wider playing corridors, the course will provide far more shot selection for different strategic approaches. What these design factors mean is that diverse playing groups – men and women, younger and older, newer golfers and more advanced – can play together more harmoniously with challenges suited to their ability level.”
Diverse playing groups can play together more harmoniously with challenges suited to their ability level.
The club’s men’s captain, Stephen Martin, detailed several of the specific enhancements to the new Championship course.
“As well as the new design features, the redevelopment will allow us to rebuild our greens using USGA construction methodology and sub-air drainage technology,” he said. “Our bunkers will be constructed with a new liner to also aid drainage, as well as improved bunker sand and entry and exit points to increase playability, safety and speed of play.”
Martin also noted the significance of the new landscape plan for golfers and non-golfers.
“The new landscape will not only complement the course design by providing more fairway space, but will also present a number of sustainable benefits,” he said. “It will almost quadruple our current floral diversity – including several rare and endangered species – as well as add a further 144 trees over the current tree count. The heathland species will thrive naturally in our local environment, meaning the club’s turf-care team will be able to reduce watering and other inputs for the course’s rough and landscaped areas. We also anticipate that the new landscape will result in a wider diversity of native animal species making Royal Sydney their home.”
The club will now begin its development planning process, under which the Championship course would close for construction in April 2021 before re-opening in April 2022.
“This project has undergone a four-year process of planning and consultation since first being discussed in 2015,” said Joan Dale, Royal Sydney’s vice-president. “Over those four years the effort of our general committee past and present, the club’s management team, as well as the extensive input from our membership, has been invaluable in us now taking one of the most important steps in our club’s history.”